The Trinitarian Theology of Cornelius Van Til (Tipton)

Tipton, Lane G. The Trinitarian Theology of Cornelius Van Til. Libertyville, IL: Reformed Forum, 2022.

Greg Bahnsen explained Van Til’s apologetic method.  John Frame touched on broader theological issues.  Lane Tipton gives us something quite new: a whole book on Van Til’s Trinitarian theology.  He clears up misunderstandings and explains some of Van Til’s rather unique phrases. Tipton’s thesis is that every error concerning God comes from either having God participate in man or man in God (Tipton 16).

Self-Contained Trinity

When Van Til uses words like “self-contained God,” he means that “God does not exist in correlation to the universe, with each side of the relation characterized by mutual change” (17).  This is excellently put.  In other words, he means that God is a se.  One minor theme in the book is that creation does not participate in the substance of the Godhead.  I agree.  I would like to point out, however, that there is an ambiguity here that neither Tipton nor some Thomists seem to be aware of.  What does “participation” actually mean?  No one really defines it. Even when I finished reading through all of Plato, I had only a vague idea of what the word meant.  This means there are two errors to avoid.  One is to define participation in such a thick way that one becomes part of the substance of the Godhead.  The other is to weaken it where 2 Peter 1:4 is all but meaningless.

Whatever participation means, Van Til posits, not a participation of the divine essence, but a finite replication of it to covenant man (19). This leads to another key point of Tipton’s: Rome’s view of the analogia entis entails theistic mutualism.  Theistic mutualism says that God and creation are in a correlative relationship. We will return to that claim later.

Tipton’s chapter on the Triune Creator is a fine presentation of some of God’s attributes.  He even suggests how these attributes, some of them anyway, safeguard our understanding of God and the universe.  Immutability, for example, precludes any form of pantheism (25). On this point Tipton rightly rebuts John Frame.  Frame, by contrast, “advocates for a species of theistic mutualism when he posits two modes of existence in God” (32 n.21; cf John Frame, Doctrine of God, 572).

The heart of this book, maybe surprisingly, is not Van Til on the Trinity, but Van Til on the image of God.  Van Til simply expounds the standard Protestant view that man was created in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness. Adam was already disposed for communion with God.  Rome, by contrast, says something is needed to raise man above his created nature.  This means that man’s position is already defective before the fall.  Scripture, by contrast, says that any conflict in the being of man is a result of sin (44).

The Trinity

This is where problems arise, all of them self-inflicted for Van Til. I note up front that I do not believe Van Til was a heretic on the Trinity.  I know what he was trying to say (see below).  Rather, he simply chose the absolute worst way to express his views on the Trinity.  Tipton says Van Til is misunderstood on this point.  He alludes to Keith Mathison, R. C. Sproul, and John Gerstner. There are two problems with that.  One, those men did not really attack Van Til on the Trinity. They attacked him on apologetics and his reading of Reformed sources.  Two, it is not clear that they actually misunderstood what he was saying.  When someone says the Trinity is both One Person and Three Persons, it is not the critic’s fault that he misunderstands what you are saying.  

So what is Van Til saying?  He begins well.  Tipton notes that the “divine essence has no existence outside of each Trinitarian person” (63). Moreover, the unity in the Trinity is a numeric, not a generic unity.  The persons of the Trinity are not members of a genus called “Godhead.” And in one area where I think Van Til did make a valuable advance in Trinitarian theology, he says that each person “exhausts” the divine essence.  Whatever it means to be God, a divine person is it.  Each person is “interior” to the other persons.

One Person and Three Persons

Following Bavinck, there is “absolute personality” in the Trinity (74; cf Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 2, God and Creation, 304). This absolute personality entails self-consciousness and self-determination.  This absolute personality “opens itself up organically in a threefold existence.”  God’s being is a “personal unity” (Tipton 76). It works like this:

Absolute personality → threefold, self-differentiated existence (77)

Now we can proceed to Van Til’s infamous claim. When he says “one person” and “three persons,” what he means is “absolute personal being/personality” and “three persons.”  The word person shifts in meaning. At this point he is simply guilty of the fallacy of equivocation, not heresy.  Tipton tries to rescue the phrasing, saying “the terms ‘person’ and ‘personality’ [are used interchangeably] to refer to God in his unity” (83). This does not sit right with me.  If we front load divine unity with personality, then we muddle the distinction between nature and person. To this Van Til would reply that we cannot, ala Gordon Clark, make the divine essence a “mute” essence. I agree.  The older fathers noted that the concept person can already do that.  A person is a mode of subsistence.  As a mode it modifies the divine essence.  It is a mode of existence (tropos hyparxeos). The divine essence is never free-floating in the abstract.

The book ends with a good discussion of perichoresis and autotheos.  We will spend some time on the latter term. Autotheos means the Son’s essence exists of himself and not with reference to the Father (112). The Father communicates the person, not the essence to the Son. In fact, “one subsistent person is not sustained in his essence by another Trinitarian person, since all persons subsist equally as the entire underived essence of God” (117).

Van Til ties all of this together with the idea of “mutual representation.” Tipton explains that “each person represents the whole of the divine essence (in the relations of subsistence) and the other Trinitarian persons (in the relations of coinherence” in the Godhead” (132). In fact, mutual exhaustion correlates with mutual representation (133).

Conclusion

Is Thomas Aquinas a theistic mutualist?  He might be.  Tipton, like Van Til, does not engage in actual analysis with primary sources.  To be sure, he references learned works by Thomists on this topic, but we still do not know what Thomas actually said.  There are problems with Thomas’s account in places, and I agree with Tipton on the donum. I admit that some Thomists do indeed speak of a sharing (or at least, seeing) the essence of God.  If Thomas said something like that, we would need to see where and to see what he means by it.  We see neither. Thomas probably held to the chain of being ontology, but did he mean that there is just one being and God has more of it than we do?  That seems more of a criticism of Scotus. My own reading of Thomas, no doubt largely shaped by men like Norman Geisler and Mortimer Adler, suggests something like the following: God and man have being analogically, not univocally. We can say our concepts of being are univocal, but our judgments of it are analogical.  

Following Norman Geisler, I would say that unless we have something like an analogy of being, we will not be able to escape Parmenides’s challenge. Parmenides said if we think being is univocal, then all being is one.  If we say it is equivocal, then we would differ from other objects and God by not-being, or nothing.  In which case, being is still one.  The solution, then, is that we have our being analogically of God.

That’s not crucial to this review, though. What is crucial is that we are still not sure of what Thomas said.  I can even grant Tipton’s claim for the sake of argument, but we would at least need to see it.

Notwithstanding the above criticism, the book is excellent. Tipton has done what Van Tillians normally do not do: he explains some of Van Til’s unique phrases. I do wish he would tell us what “concrete universal” meant for Van Til.  I do not think anyone should criticize Van Til on the Trinity without at least reading that section in this book.  It may not necessarily convince you, but you will at least have seen what Van Til does and does not mean.

(Disclaimer: I was given a complimentary copy by the publisher. I was under no obligation for a favorable review.  My thoughts are entirely my own.)

Christianity and Idealism (Van Til)

Van Til, Cornelius. Christianity and Idealism. Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1955.

Originally a collection of articles, this is actually a fascinating account of the final days of Anglo-American Hegelianism. When Van Til (and by extension, his interlocutors) say “idealism,” they do not mean it like Berkeley and others did, where the world is a product of the human mind. Not even Hegel meant that. Rather, for this kind of idealism, the Absolute is that which is either beyond all particulars or contains all particulars.

A note on terminology: a key concept for idealism is the concrete universal. If for Plato universals existed in some unattainable heaven, and where for Aristotle universals exist in the particular, for the later Idealists the universal contains the particulars.

For men like FH Bradley, reality is beyond the appearances. Reality is unreal to the degree that it is not comprehensible. This calls to mind the old Hegelian dictum: the real is the rational and the rational is the real.

Bernard Bonsanqet makes a similar argument: pluralism destroys knowledge (Van Til, 19). Unity must be basic to difference. I think this is correct and Van Til himself acknowledges its proximity to theism. Without a unity, everything is in flux. This means that the universe must be timeless. Now we are getting into dangerous waters. We are only a short step away from denying the passage of time altogether, as McTaggart later did.

As good as this sounds, Van Til highlights its weakness. It makes God and man correlative of one another. Being and nothing are correlative. All ends up as becoming. Yes, it’s pantheism. Another consequence is that there is no doctrine of creation, since particularity has always been there.

Van Til says the ontological Trinity is the true concrete universal. I think there is something to that. There is unity and particularity in the Trinity, but it does not function the same way as earlier Idealist models did. The unity for the Idealists served to ground the particulars. The difficulty here is that the particulars in the Trinity (i.e., the persons) are not functioning in the same way as idealist particulars are. Of course, Van Til never makes these claims, but it is an idea I have had for years when I read Van Tillians on the ontological trinity.

The book is worth getting to see how Van Til reacted to the last of the British Hegelians.

Christian-Theistic Evidences (Van Til)

Van Til, Cornelius. Christian-Theistic Evidences. In Defense of the Faith vol. 6. Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1978.

In popular opinion, if Van Til’s presuppositional method is true, then what is the use of evidences?  Indeed, we are told that Van Til wrote an entire book on evidences.  So he did.  The book itself is quite interesting and worth your time.  Among Van Til’s works, it is not that difficult. We will see at the end if he gave a positive case with evidences.

Butler

I think CVT does a decent job summarizing Butler’s approach.  I, for one, have never found Butler’s approach all that tempting, nor would, I imagine, many classical apologists today. For Butler, analogical reasoning is “reasoning about unknown possibilities from the known constitution of nature” (Van Til, 2).

With Van Til I agree that Butler’s analogy for a future life is quite weak.  I cannot imagine anyone who seriously employs this today.

Hume’s Scepticism

Hume’s foundation: what is the nature of the connection between ideas? If an idea recalls another idea, it is a general idea.  On the other hand, there is no connection between particular ideas (18). Our ideas are merely contiguous.  The relevance to Butler is obvious: “there is simply no logical relation between the past and future” (19).  Moreover, probability, so crucial to Butler’s project, cannot really explain the relations between ideas.

How seriously should one take Hume’s criticisms of Butler? Hume’s epistemology has not held up very well through the centuries.  I am not defending Butler, but if one can prove that Hume’s epistemology is bunk, then why should we be particularly impressed with his criticisms of Butler?

Idealistic Reconstruction

These idealists agreed with Hume’s critique of Butler, but did not think Hume’s sceptism was warranted.  Kant is CVT’s target here.

I do not care too much for discussions of Kant.  Far more interesting, however, is CVT’s discussion of James Orr.  He notes, probably correctly, Orr’s “Hegelian or idealist argument” (37).  CVT wonders whether Hegelian arguments are safe enough to use to dismantle Kant.  Hegelians sought to unify “pure rationality” (Plato’s world of forms) with fact. What the Hegelians would soon realize is that “pure being” is just as unintelligible as “pure nothing.”

CVT then gives a good analysis of F.H. Bradley and Bernard Bosanquet. One may surmise that CVT got his idea of “brute fact” from these men.  He hints as much (41).  For example, you cannot count unless you already had the idea of a number system. These men came very close to overcoming the limitations of pure rationality.

Unfortunately, as CVT points out (but perhaps does not fully use), such a view more or less vanquishes the need for any facts (42). If every fact must be placed into a system of interpretation before it can have any meaning, then it is hard to see, if pressed consistently, why such a fact should be needed at all.  That’s not CVT’s main criticism.  The main problem for idealism is that it sees “the Absolute growing out of our own conception of reality.”  The problem is obvious: how can the Absolute make sense of facts when it itself emerges from our own system of facts?

Christianity and its Factual Defense

CVT is quite clear “that if we seek to defend the Christian religion by an ‘appeal to the facts of experience’ in accord with the current scientific method, we shall have to adulterate Christianity beyond recognition” (49).  Rather, we begin with another set of facts, the first of which is our being chosen by God. As all facts are created by God, “fact and interpretation are co-extensive” (51).

Indeed, he says “For us there can be no true interpretation of facts without miracle” (52). Whether this statement is true or not, this is not usually how miracles work.  If one needs the proper framework to interpret a miracle, it’s not clear then why one needs a miracle.

Van Til does allow that we can appeal to facts, just not to brute facts (57). Rather, we appeal to God-interpreted facts.  Any interpretation must line up with God’s interpretation.  The rather obvious question, which he does not pursue, is how do we know our interpretation is God’s interpretation?  The rest of the chapter is a juxtaposition of attacks on brute fact, limiting concepts, and bare possibility.

Actual Evidences

One might think upon reading this chapter title CVT would give actual evidences for God or show how evidences function within a larger system.  He does not.  He surveys current conceptions of God (usually immanentistic) by leading thinkers and why they are bad.

Creation and Providence

CVT examines the idea of causation. CVT ties Kant’s view of causation with Leibniz.  I think there is something to that.  Geisler himself made a similar criticism of Leibniz: such a view of causation is immanentistic.  CVT shows how idealist systems cannot have a creation because the Absolute is always already unfolding.  The closest Van Til gets to offering evidence iis his claim that man must first see himself as a creature.

Where Van Til is Correct

I agree that “facts” must also involve, at least in theory, a philosophy of fact (33).

Criticisms

Van Til said that those who seek a priori proof of God prove too much.  In other words, if God’s existence is necessary, so is man’s (25).  What I think he means is that God’s existence is correlative to man’s on this scheme.  It is not clear how it is.  Maybe on Leibniz’s scheme it is.

CVT said Aquinas assumed “the virtual identity of his intellect” with that of God’s (36).  This is almost certainly false.  In fact, it sounds a lot like Gordon Clark.

Conclusion

As it stands this book is quite interesting.  CVT gives many lucid discussions of Idealism and British Hegelianism.  One should note, however, that this book does not seek to give evidences for Christianity.  What it does it evaluate the philosophies of fact of the leading thinkers of the day.

Reforming Apologetics (Fesko)

Fesko, J. V. Reforming Apologetics: Retrieving the Classic Reformed Approach to Defending the Faith. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2019.

There is no way to write a review of this book that minimizes the potential for a literary bloodbath. I will start by stating the thesis in the most minimal of terms.  This allows me to divide the review in three parts: 1) how the Reformed orthodox viewed prolegomena and natural theology; 2) overlap between classic Reformed and Van Tillian methods; 3) disagreements with Van Til.

Side bar: I’ve read James Anderson’s series of reviews on this book.  Anderson agrees with much of Fesko’s presentation of natural law and common notions.  He does a good job outlining Fesko’s position.

The hero of this book is the Puritan Anthony Burgess. From Burgess, Fesko presents an eloquent and compelling account of the importance of the book of nature and “common notions.” The law of nature is the common notions which are on our hearts (Fesko 15). For Burgess, the boundary of the law of nature is “the moral law delivered by Moses at Sinai” (16).  

Aquinas: the principles of natural law are the same for all people.  The conclusions they draw are not (Aquinas, ST Ia-IIae, qu. 94, quoted in Fesko 34). As Fesko, commenting elsewhere on Turretin, notes, “Immediate principles admit, but the noetic effects of sin due to the fall corrupt mediate principles” (43).

Although the chapter on Calvin explains Calvin’s views, it serves an equally important function: it rebuts the “Christological monism” that tempted  historians and apologists for the last 200 years. That’s where people seek a unifying principle and deduce the rest of doctrine from it. This really only works with German idealism. In short, Calvin did not see Christ as the unifying principle of all theology and then deduced everything from him.

Following Richard Muller and others, Fesko notes that scholasticism was simply a method.  It involved lectio, meditatio, and quaestio/disputatio.  It was a classroom format.  You can find elements of it in Calvin.  Contrast the Beveridge translation of 1.16.9 with the Battles translation and you can see Calvin use scholastic terminology and methods.

I am not going to spend much time on Fesko’s analysis of Calvin.  The literature is overwhelming. I do not think Calvin is a Thomist, yet it is obvious that Calvin is not saying what Van Til thinks he is saying.

Regarding Thomas Aquinas, Fesko’s main complaint is that Van Til gave nearly zero evidence that he actually read Thomas. Perhaps he did.  That does not come out in his writings.   We will cut a few moves off at the pass. According to presuppositionalists, Thomas is wrong for trying to synthesize Aristotle with Christ. However, it is not clear why Thomas is wrong for using concepts from Aristotle, yet it is fine for Van Til to use even more dubious concepts from Kant.  

Regarding some of Thomas’s arguments, Fesko notes they are quia, not propter quid.  In other words, they reason from effect to the cause, not cause to the effect. This is important because we cannot know God in his essence; therefore, we cannot reason from God to the world (78ff).

My favorite chapter is the one on worldview.  There is a sense in which worldview talk is legitimate.  If by it one means a way of viewing the world, then there is no big problem.  That is not how it is used in the literature. Historic worldview theory (what Fesko labels HWT) seeks to deduce our understanding of reality from a single principle and provide an exhaustive (or near enough) explanation of reality (98).

Not surprisingly, Van Til embraces HWT. It provides “the true interpretation of human experience” (Van Til, CA, 38, quoted in Fesko 106).  This aspect of Van Til’s is fairly uncontroversial, so I will forgo the rest of the quotations. The problem is that if HWT is true, then there really cannot be any common notions between believer and unbeliever.

 James Anderson, though, has demonstrated that Van Til held to common notions, at least in theory.  Van Til rejected this later on (My Credo, JA, 21). There he moved to common ground, by which he meant the image of God.

Conclusion of the chapter: if one holds to HWT as defined above, then there is no legitimate place for natural revelation and common notions. Moreover, Scripture itself does not say that men will have unique knowledge regarding creation.  God specifically tells Job there are a number of things that he will not know (Job 40:4).

I am tempted to skip the section on transcendental arguments.  Fesko does not disagree with them in theory.  He says they can be useful when you find the rare unbeliever who has a coherent worldview.  

He includes a chapter on Dooyeweerd.  I predicted in 2005 that there would be a return to Dooyeweerd’s thought in the Reformed world.  It was a strange prediction, as Dooyeweerd is often incomprehensible.  It turned out to be true, though.

To some extent for Van Til, but largely for Dooyeweerd, historic Christian thought has been plagued by the nature-grace dualism.  This occurs when man absolutizes one of the modal spheres, usually the temporal one. Fesko counters this charge by noting a) Dooyeweerd mistakes duality for dualism, b) provides little analysis with the key sources, and c) uses a similar methodology to Adolf von Harnack.

Against this dualism, Dooyeweerd suggests the biblical ground motive of “creation, fall, and redemption.”  Here we run into a problem.  Dooyeweerd had elsewhere criticized Van Til for being too rationalist in getting his ideas from the Bible.  For Dooyeweerd, we cannot use the bible as an object of theology.  The problem, one among many, of which Dooyeweerd seems unaware, is that he got his biblical ground motive from the Bible!

Moreover, it is not true that Thomas Aquinas (and by extension the WCF) held to such a dualism regarding body and soul.  For Thomas, the soul in-forms the body. It is the form of the body.  It is not a ghost in the machine.  It is one organic unity.  Dooyeweerd mistook Thomas for Descartes.

And Dooyeweerd does not apply the same criticism to Calvin.  Calvin specifically praised Plato on the soul (ICR, 1.15.16)! Calvin is not this pure font of only biblical theology.  Even worse, Calvin said it was okay to start with the knowledge of man.  The ordo docendi is not the same as the ordo essendi.

When we say that Dooyeweerd used the same methodology that Harnack did, we are not saying that he was a liberal who held the same beliefs.  Rather, both believed that pure Christiant thought was corrupted by Greek philosophy.  

In his concluding chapter on epistemology, Fesko shows how Van Tillians and classical Reformed can work together. Fesko’s comments on covenant sound very Van Tillian. Man’s covenantal origin allows us to embrace the book of nature.

With Van Tillians, we agree that epistemology is about wisdom (Fesko 198). Man submits to God’s authority, remembers his law, and responds with praise.  We see a good example of this in Psalm 19.  

Forgetting God’s law is the opposite of knowing.  It is the same as disobedience. Van Til could have written this section.

There is one category confusion, though, that many Van Tillians make.They confuse axiology (the theory of value) with epistemology.  An unbeliever will almost always have the wrong axiology.  That does not mean he will have the wrong epistemology.  

Conclusion

This book should not be seen as an attack on Van Til. The chapters on historic Reformed methodology are beyond dispute.  The Reformed used the book of nature and believed in common notions.  Nor is this book uncritical of Thomas Aquinas.  Aquinas was wrong on the donum superadditum.  Finally, the real criticisms of Van Til should be appreciated for what they are.  Van Til did not engage in serious historical analysis.  That does not mean the rest of his project is wrong.  Fesko even thinks the Transcendental Argument has its place (although I have my concerns).

Reformed Pastor and Modern Thought (Van Til)

I would not recommend this volume as the first thing to read by Van Til. I would recommend it to be one of the last. It is not without merit, of course. Van Til repeats and alludes to a lot of earlier works and more often than not he doesn’t fully develop his thoughts. Here are the high points:

He posits the Reformed Pastor-Evangelist as the one who presupposes the self-contained Ontological Trinity who speaks in history. I agree with him. Aside from a few page-long quotations from Calvin, he doesn’t develop this argument. He does develop it in detail in *Introduction to Systematic theology.* He then has the famous Mr Grey, Mr White, Mr black conversation.

Then he gives the shortcomings of Arminian and Roman Catholic apologetics. This is disappointing. He is always on the verge of “nailing the case shut,” and then the chapter or section ends abruptly. It is doubly frustrating because he is making good and incisive points, but they are not connected.

He gives an outstanding analysis of Paul Tillich (which is fleshed out and developed) and a fine critique, if too brief, of the Ecumenical Movement.

By all means read this volume. Just don’t read it first.

Big Book of Christian Apologetics (Geisler)

Geisler, Norman.  The Big Book of Christian Apologetics.

 I read the original “Baker Encyclopedia” in college.  I’m partial to that one for nostalgic reasons.  This one is good, too (and is the same thing, more or less).

When Geisler sticks to Evangelical Thomism, few can compete with him.  His take on causality, analogy, and being is one of the few essential takeaways from this book.

Geisler’s “Twelve Points” is the outline of his apologetic thrust.  They are helpfully outlined here.:

  1. Truth about reality is knowable.
  2. Opposites cannot both be true.
  3. The theistic God exists.
  4. If God exists, then miracles are possible.
  5. Miracles can be used to confirm a message from God.
  6. The New Testament is historically reliable.
  7. The New Testament says that Jesus claimed to be God.
  8. Jesus’ claim to be God is confirmed by miracles.
  9. Therefore, Jesus is God.
  10. Whatever Jesus (who is God) teaches is true.
  11. Jesus taught that the Bible is the Word of God.
  12. Therefore, it is true that the Bible is the Word of God (and anything opposed to it is false).

Analogy, Principle of. Analogy is based in causality. A cause communicates itself to the effect.  Being communicates being. “The cause of being must be a Being. It cannot give what it don’t got.” Analogy between God and creation is based in efficient causality. We are like God because Actuality communicates actuality, but unlike God we have limiting potentiality.

Principality of Casuality

  1. Every effect has a cause.
  2. Every contingent being is caused by another.
  3. Every limited being is caused by another.
  4. Everything that comes to be is caused by another.
  5. Nonbeing cannot cause being.

No potency for being can actualize itself, for it would have to have been in a previous state of actuality.

Edwards, Jonathan.  Used a good cosmological argument.  Some problems concerning panentheism and an overly rigid view of free choice.  No one is moved to act unless God acts on him.  We act according to our free desire.  This self-destructs when applied to Satan and the angels, for it seems God would have to have given them their desire for sin.

First Principles

These are so good I am probably going to write them in the cover of my bible.
B means being;

Bn means Necessary Being;
Bc means contingent being;
-> means causes;
-/> cannot cause;
Act means actuality;
P means potentiality (or potency).

  1. B is or exists (principle of existence)
  1. B is B (principle of identity)
  2. B is not non-B (principle of non-contradiction)
  3. Either B or non-B (principle of excluded middle)
  4. Non-B -/> B (principle of negative causality)
  5. B-/Bc (principle of contingent causality)
  6. Bn-/>Bn (principle of impossible causality)
  7. Bn->Bc (principle of positive causality)
  8. Bc is (exists) (principle of contingent existence)
  9. Bn is (exists) principle of necessary existence)
  10. Act is Act (with no potency) (principle of pure actuality)
  11. Bc is act/potency (principle of potency)
  12. Act ->act/potency (principle of analogy
  13. Act is similar to act
  14. Act is different from potency
  15. Bn is not (principle of negative attributes)
  16. finite (= is infinite)
  17. changing (=is immutable)
  18. temporal (=is eternal)
  19. multiple (= is one)
  20. divisible (=is simple)
  21. Bn is (principle of positive attributes)
  22. actual
  23. intelligent
  24. personal
  25. good
  26. truth
  27. Beautiful

Geisler’s take on creation/flood is interesting.  He holds to Old Earth (or rather, the strongest argument for YEC don’t obtain because there are gaps in the genealogies).  On the other hand, he holds to a global flood.

Hardening of Pharaoh

This isn’t as against Calvinism as it might seem.  Our scholastic fathers held to free choice and that God doesn’t work mechanically against our wills.  If that is true, then we shouldn’t have to big a problem with Geisler’s conclusion that God doesn’t harden initially, but subsequently; not directly, but indirectly; not against free choice, but through free choice; not as to the cause, but as to the effect.

Hinduism. Some comments. The only way I could know that all is an illusion is by using my senses.  These same monists tell us to use our senses to listen to their lectures or read their books.

If illusionism is true, how could I know it?

Gospel witnesses:  The gospels couldn’t have been myths because not only do myths not develop in under a generation, but myths also do not develop while the eyewitnesses are still alive.

Bart Ehrman on the manuscripts’ having errors: if we apply the same reasoning to his own books, we note that his first edition had sixteen errors.  One hundred thousand copies were pritten.  This means he made 1.6 million errors, but that is silly.

First Law of Thermodynamics.  The point isn’t that energy can’t be created or destroyed.  It isn’t making a statement about the origin of the universe.  Energy remains constant, albeit the usable energy decreases.

Van Til. We’ll end the review with his critique of Van Til.    CVT says that for Aquinas God’s existence is only probable, whereas Aquinas said it was rationally necessary (ST 1a., 2, 3). Aquinas would believe with CVT that truth depends ontologically on God.  Yet CVT never fully realized that finite man must ask how he could know.  CVT confused the order of knowing with the order of being.

Even worse, if the unbeliever experiences everything with a “jaundiced eye,” how would he ever understand Van Til, since the rules of logic and grammar are being experienced differently?  CVT seemed to see this tension (IST, 15).  It gets worse, though. If the unbeliever with his jaundiced eye cannot account for creation, then he’s off the hook since there is no way for him to suppress a truth that he doesn’t even understand.

Criticisms

Unfortunately, Geisler holds to some form of the subordination of the Son.  To be honest, I think he is just confused, for he first anchors the subordination in the economy.  However, he does use the unstable category of “function.”  There is no evidence, though, that he is using this model to drive a particular view of male-female relations.  He might in other books, but not here.  What makes it more frustrating is that his overall Trinitarianism and Doctrine of God is so good.

Classical Apologetics (RC Sproul)

I want to thank Tim Enloe for providing me with a copy. Please go by his site and check it out. He knows more about education and church history than I ever will.

Sproul, R.C., Gerstner, John., Lindsley, Arthur. Classical Apologetics: A Rational Defense of the Christian Faith and a Critique of Presuppositional Apologetics. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984.

There are several main challenges in responding to presuppositionalism. There is no easy way to begin. Another difficulty is that the book is somewhat out of date. For one, Van Til never formalized the Transcendental Argument (hereafter TAG). Bahnsen and Frame fully developed it a decade or so after this book’s publication. Another difficulty is that key Reformed sources weren’t translated at this time. Even though the classical position is correct and matches what one finds in Turretin, Turretin wasn’t yet translated. The same goes for Junius, Olevianus, etc. Yea, even Muller had not yet published his opus.

On a positive note, if presups would make one or two adjustments, their system isn’t very different from classical systems. This leads to probably the most important point in the book. Historic Reformed Christianity distinguished between the order of knowing and the order of being. From such a view, logic is first in man’s order of knowing. God is first in man’s order of being. Some classical authors have used this correct point to say they have refuted presuppositionalism. I don’t see why presups cannot practically use this. They’ll have to change (or better yet, drop) some of their rhetoric on “autonomous” starting points, but much of the system can be salvaged.

Part 1 is the authors’ case for natural theology. It’s not different from any historic Reformed prolegomena. Key idea: “Natural theology refers to knowledge of God acquired through nature…natural theology is dependent upon divine revelation for its content” (Sproul et al, 25).

Key idea 2: “The pagan’s problem is not that he does not know that God is, but that he does not like the God who is” (39). You might be thinking, “This is exactly what presuppositionalism teaches.” That is true, and if that were all presuppositionalism taught, we would be on board. As Sproul will develop the argument later, presuppositionalism wants to say that the pagan knows God but doesn’t have any knowledge of God. He has false knowledge of God. The problem there is that if he has false knowledge of God, then why would he try to suppress it (49)?

Part 2 is the authors’ case for the theistic arguments. This section is good, but almost all of it has been better stated in recent years. Their view of the ontological argument is important for the doctrine of God, so we will spend some time looking at it.

Most forms of the ontological argument begin with the innocent premise, “A necessary being may exist” (Sproul 100). Moreover, there is no logical contradiction in our being able to think about a necessary being. “If we can think of God at all, we are compelled to think that He is. God is being. It is undeniable that we do think of being…We cannot not think of being” (100).

It feels that Gerstner went too fast on this point, for as it stands he has merely proven pantheism. What he does later is distinguish God’s being from our being, but if we can’t help but think about being, then are we thinking about God’s being or ours? This is why Anselm is safer than Jonathan Edwards, and it is to Anselm that we now turn.

Key idea: God is that which none greater can be conceived. If a perfect being has “necessary existence” as one of its properties, then this perfect being has to exist. On a formal level, it works. Anselm’s disciples, of whom I am one, will have to rebut Kant’s criticism, but the argument itself is fairly stable.

Regarding the section on miracles, I just want to deal with Hume’s critique. When Hume attacks miracles as violating natural law and the instances of conformity, he not only gets rid of miracles, he gets rid of anything unusual (151). As the authors note, “Uniformity itself rests upon repetition, a series or sequence of some or similar events. But the series can never be established because before there can be two such similar events there must be a first one. The first, however, would be unique and therefore incredible.”

The Critique of Presuppositionalism

The heart of the matter is this: is the traditionalist sinning by starting with the self instead of God? Van Til will occasionally admit that we can start with temporal facts (CVT: SCE, 120). If he would have consistently worked this into his system, we wouldn’t have much of a problem.

The next problem is that “Van Til confuses the sinner’s rejecting sound knowledge with not having knowledge” (Sproul et al, 216). If the sinner didn’t have any knowledge, then how could we use the TAG with him? He at least has some reason. Unfortunately, Van Til says there is “no logic or reality” between the two (CVT: Reformed Pastor, 199). Here CVT collapses the various kinds of knowledge into knowledge as loving and obeying God. Sproul and Gerstner deliver their first coup de grace: “We cannot even presuppose God except logically. In other words, even to think of the God who can validate logic, we must first think logically or rationally” (Sproul 220). Even more, “the presuppositionalist cannot even use the word God without assuming the law of noncontradiction” (224).

Here is the pastoral danger in rejecting the distinction between order of knowing and order of being: if we don’t have knowledge unless we presuppose God, then how can the sinner even get to the point where he can accept (or reject) the offer? “Van Til has cut off the bridge to knowledge” (228). This is the heart of the critique. The rest of the book is a variation on it.

I am pastorally willing to grant the presuppositionalist almost everything except this one point. I’ve seen in my life and the lives of others were presuppsitionalist young Turks have become either nihilists or sacerdotalists because they had no consistent knowledge.

In any case, and this isn’t that fatal a point to the system, Van Til doesn’t actually begin with God. He begins with the supposition that we should be able to predicate” (233). By his own standards (by what standard?) he is as autonomous as the traditionalist.

Before we end this review, I want to make a somewhat ironic and amusing point on today’s presuppositionalists regarding miracles and charismatic claims. Rushdoony says “to accept miracles on any other ground is in effect to deny their essential meaning” (Rushdoony, By What Standard, 17). The church, by contrast, has always thought of a miracle as corroborating the Gospel. Think about the standard cessationist criticism of miracles: they were used in the early church to certify the apostles’ message. I personally think that is a bad argument, but it gets the idea of miracle correct. Rushdoony, and by implication, presups in general, reverse the process. We presuppose miracles. A miracle is now an empty concept. In any case, you can’t be a cessationist on miracles and accept the presuppositionalist view on miracles.

Final point: the traditional Reformed view says that the Holy Spirit illuminates the unregenerate’s heart (Jonathan Edwards, A Divine and Supernatural Light). On Van Til’s view there is no knowledge to illuminate (CVT: Jerusalem and Athens, 243).

This book has some value in responding to Van Til. It is of limited use concerning later presuppositionalists (Bahnsen, Frame) and the academic ones of today (James Anderson).

Addendum:

This is an introductory response to Bahnsen’s review of Sproul’s Classical Apologetics. I plan a more detailed one later. I left my copy in another town. There are many weaknesses in CVT’s approach, but I have to have my copy in front of me in order to do a full analysis. Lord willing, I should do that in a few weeks.

Response to Bahnsen’s Review

(The original review is here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1SS4qpV8uFlIoWxWrrOo3dGL9vhW14Roj/view)

Bahnsen: He criticizes their attack on secularism because, given their def. Of secularism as limiting reality to the temporal order, the secularist won’t agree with any proof they offer (p. 2).

That’s an odd criticism to make. Presumably, the authors, like every other apologist, Bahnsen included, will attempt to show that the secularist is wrong on that point.

Bahnsen: they cannot legitimately appeal to “natural theology” since on their terms natural revelation assumes special revelation, which assumes the existence of God (2).

The second part of that claim is true, though I don’t see why it is necessarily a problem. Sproul et al admit bias. I think Bahnsen’s target here is probably JW Montgomery.

Bahnsen: their use of Scripture (Ps. 19) doesn’t prove their case, for if natural theology is man’s reflection on natural revelation, then Scripture isn’t doing that.

This isn’t entirely true. Part of the problem is the tendency among presupps to reduce natural theology to nature itself. If that is what natural theology is, then we don’t see the psalmists doing that. On the other hand, natural theology as used by Sproul and the historic Christian tradition includes legitimate inferences from logical foundations, even at times drawing upon non-Christian wisdom. The most notorious point is Paul’s quoting a pantheist philosopher. Evidently, that philosopher had at least one legitimate reflection.

Bahnsen on noetic effects: He takes issue with apologetics as pre-evangelism, as the sinner won’t even agree to an assensus of faith to the propositions without the Holy Spirit (3).

This is simply false. Anyone who has done evangelism has been in situations where an unbeliever will say, “Yeah, that makes sense or I can agree with that but I don’t want to change my life.” Moreover, it is not true in Scripture that one needs the Holy Spirit for intellectual assent. Demons, for example, give intellectual assent to the most important proposition one can make about God.

Bahnsen: he attacks their use of causality (i.e., every effect has a cause) and points to Hume.

Aside from implying Hume’s criticism of causality, Bahnsen gives no reason to believe Sproul is wrong.

Bahnsen on cosmological argument: I’ll grant Bahnsen a point here. I don’t like how Sproul phrased it: if something exists now, then something exists necessarily. There are much better presentations of the cosmological argument and I never liked how Sproul phrased this one. Bahnsen attacks the claim that this cause has the power of being in itself as incoherent. That’s just standard Christian theism. Beings have energia. That’s almost true by definition.

Bahnsen: the authors give us no reason to believe that the world can’t be an infinite regress.

Response: yes they do. The explanation for a cause must be outside that cause itself. If this is true, and Bahnsen has given us no argument on why it isn’t, then the cause will be outside the temporal order.

That’s more or less Bahnsen’s review. He devotes the last page to rescuing Van Til from the charge of fideism. Even if that attempt is successful, it ignores all the real criticisms of Van Til. Consider: does the sinner have false knowledge of God? If he does, then why is he suppressing it? Wouldn’t it make more sense to say that he has knowledge of God and that is why he is suppressing it?

Response to Bahnsen’s Review of Sproul

This is an introductory response to Bahnsen’s review of Sproul’s Classical Apologetics.  I plan a more detailed one later.  I left my copy in another town.  There are many weaknesses in CVT’s approach, but I have to have my copy in front of me in order to do a full analysis. Lord willing, I should do that in a few weeks.

Response to Bahnsen’s Review

(The original review is here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1SS4qpV8uFlIoWxWrrOo3dGL9vhW14Roj/view)

Bahnsen: He criticizes their attack on secularism because, given their def. Of secularism as limiting reality to the temporal order, the secularist won’t agree with any proof they offer (p. 2).  

That’s an odd criticism to make.  Presumably, the authors, like every other apologist, Bahnsen included, will attempt to show that the secularist is wrong on that point.

Bahnsen: they cannot legitimately appeal to “natural theology” since on their terms natural revelation assumes special revelation, which assumes the existence of God (2).   

The second part of that claim is true, though I don’t see why it is necessarily a problem.  Sproul et al admit bias.  I think Bahnsen’s target here is probably JW Montgomery.

Bahnsen: their use of Scripture (Ps. 19) doesn’t prove their case, for if natural theology is man’s reflection on natural revelation, then Scripture isn’t doing that.

This isn’t entirely true.  Part of the problem is the tendency among presupps to reduce natural theology to nature itself. If that is what natural theology is, then we don’t see the psalmists doing that.  On the other hand, natural theology as used by Sproul and the historic Christian tradition includes legitimate inferences from logical foundations, even at times drawing upon non-Christian wisdom.  The most notorious point is Paul’s quoting a pantheist philosopher.  Evidently, that philosopher had at least one legitimate reflection.

Bahnsen on noetic effects: He takes issue with apologetics as pre-evangelism, as the sinner won’t even agree to an assensus of faith to the propositions without the Holy Spirit (3).  

This is simply false. Anyone who has done evangelism has been in situations where an unbeliever will say, “Yeah, that makes sense or I can agree with that but I don’t want to change my life.”  Moreover, it is not true in Scripture that one needs the Holy Spirit for intellectual assent.  Demons, for example, given intellectual assent to the most important proposition one can make about God.

Bahnsen: he attacks their use of causality (i.e., every effect has a cause) and points to Hume.  

Aside from implying Hume’s criticism of causality, Bahnsen gives no reason to believe Sproul is wrong.

Bahnsen on cosmological argument:  I’ll grant Bahnsen a point here.  I don’t like how Sproul phrased it:  if something exists now, then something exists necessarily.  There are much better presentations of the cosmological argument and I never liked how Sproul phrased this one.  Bahnsen attacks the claim that this cause has the power of being in itself as incoherent.  That’s just standard Christian theism.  Beings have energia.  That’s almost true by definition.

Bahnsen: the authors give us no reason to believe that the world can’t be an infinite regress.

Response: yes they do. The explanation for a cause must be outside that cause itself.  If this is true, and Bahnsen has given us no argument on why it isn’t, then the cause will be outside the temporal order.

That’s more or less Bahnsen’s review.  He devotes the last page to rescuing Van Til from the charge of fideism.  Even if that attempt is successful, it ignores all the real criticisms of Van Til.  Consider: does the sinner have false knowledge of God?  If he does, then why is he suppressing it?  Wouldn’t it make more sense to say that he has knowledge of God and that is why he is suppressing it?

Covenantal Relations in the Trinity

One of the Reformed Thomist criticisms of Kuyper, Vos, etc., is that they posited covenantal relations in the Trinity.  And this is bad because of Hegel or something.  I want to do two things: actually see what they say and see what Scripture says. And perhaps note why Reformed Thomists resist this point so much.

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We always come back to him for some reason

By way of prep reading I recommend Ralph Smith’s website.

First of all, what is a covenant?  Answering this question is a nightmare, but we can give it a try:

 

 

 

 

From the beginning of God’s disclosures to men in terms of covenant we find a unity of conception which is to the effect that a divine covenant is a sovereign administration of grace and of promise. It is not compact or contract or agreement that provides the constitutive or governing idea but that of dispensation in the sense of disposition…. And when we remember that covenant is not only bestowment of grace, not only oath-bound promise, but also relationship with God in that which is the crown and goal of the whole process of religion, namely, union and communion with God, we discover again that the new covenant brings this relationship also to the highest level of achievement. At the centre of covenant revelation as its constant refrain is the assurance ‘I will be your God, and ye shall be my people’. The new covenant does not differ from the earlier covenants because it inaugurates this peculiar intimacy. It differs simply because it brings to the ripest and richest fruition the relationship epitomized in that promise. [Emphasis added.]

So we can at least get the term “relationship” derived from it.  Following Van Til I argue (Or posit) that the relationships between the persons of the Trinity is covenantal:

The three persons of the Trinity have exhaustively personal relationship with one another. And the idea of exhaustive personal relationship is the idea of the covenant (“Covenant Theology” in The New Twentieth Century Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge).

Let’s take Jesus’s words in John 17: “Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was” (This is often taken to prove the divine oneness of the Trinity, but I don’t think that is the point of this passage).  That Jesus is using covenantal relation language is evident from verse 11:  that they may be one even as We are.  Jesus isn’t asking the Father that we have the same divine nature as they do.  Rather, it is that we have the same covenantal relation in unity.

Kuyper on Covenant:

If the idea of the covenant with regard to man and among men can only occur in its  ectypical form, and if its archetypical original is found in the divine economy, then it
cannot have its deepest ground in the pactum salutis that has its motive in the fall of
man. For in that case it would not belong to the divine economy as such, but would be introduced in it rather incidentally and change the essential relations of the Three
Persons in the divine Essence (quoted in Hoeksema 295).

I think Kuyper is saying something like the following:

  1. If the covenant is ectypal, then it isn’t part of God in se (if you want to use those categories).
  2. Therefore, it is accidental to the being of God.
  3. Therefore, it would call into question the Pactum Salutis, which must refer ontologically and not economically.

Ralph Smith concludes and sums up Kuyper’s position:

If Father, Son, and Spirit do not relate to one another in covenant essentially in their fundamental intratrinitarian fellowship, why should the contemplation of man’s fall and redemption introduce something new and different in their relationship? And how should we think of God as the unchangeable God, if intratrinitarian relationships have been fundamentally and essentially changed in the pactum salutis? (Smith 23).

Mutual Exhaustion in the Covenant

Van Til said the members of the covenant mutually exhaust the scheme.  Granted, there probably is a better way to say it, but I think it is worth unpacking.  Smith writes,

First, the covenant idea, he says, is nothing but the representative principle applied to all of reality. This makes the whole creation covenantal in the nature of the case. God does not enter into a covenant with man after creating him, for man is created as God’s image. Man is God’s representative and therefore a covenantal being from the first. The same is true in a general way for the rest of creation, since all the creation is a revelation of God, representing Him in a secondary sense. As Van Til says, the representative idea must be applied to all reality.

I think what CVT is saying is that when God creates, he creates covenantally.  It is a representational principle, but who is representing what?  CVT doesn’t specifically state it, but the covenantal relation in the Trinity is being represented. Smith again,

Second, Van Til sees the source of this representative, which is to say, covenantal
principle in the eternal relations of the persons of the Trinity. The covenant in God is not merely a covenant between Father and Son, nor is it merely an agreement entered into for the sake of the salvation of the world. To quote again one sentence from the previous paragraph: “the Trinity exists in the form of a mutually exhaustive representation of the three Persons that constitute it.”

In this sentence Van Til clearly defines the eternal, internal relations of the Persons of the Trinity as representational and therefore covenantal.

In conclusion, Van Til:

In the Trinity there is completely personal relationship without residue. And for that reason it may be said that man’s actions are all personal too. Man’s surroundings are shot through with personality because all things are related to the infinitely personal God. But when we have said that the surroundings of man are really completely personalized, we have also established the fact of the representational principle. All of man’s acts must be representational of the acts of God. Even the persons of the Trinity are mutually representational. They are exhaustively representational of one another (Survey of Christian Epistemology. 52-53).

Why do Reformed Thomists get up in arms about this?  My guess is that a covenantal ontology really doesn’t mesh with Thomism.  It’s hard to square covenant with the idea that relations = persons, for then the covenantal relations between the persons would also be persons.

Review: Cornelius Van Til, an Analysis of his Thought

by John Frame. Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing, 1995.

This is my second time to read through this book.  The question obviously arises:  should you read this book or Bahnsen’s book on Van Til?  They are two different books dealing with two different approaches.  Bahnsen’s book is a manual on Van Tillian apologetics, but has relatively little on Van Til’s actual theology.  That is where Frame’s is valuable.

The Metaphysics of Knowledge: God as Self-Contained Fullness
This is Frame’s favorite aspect of Van Til’s thought, and probably the best section in the book. This is another way of saying God’s aseity. God is sufficient in himself. From God’s self-containment, we may say that God’s unity implies his simplicity: “If there is only one God, then there is nothing “in” him that is independent of him” (55). How does God’s revelation play into this? Due to the richness of God’s nature, we could never know him left to ourselves. However, if God, a self-contained God–and a self-contained God who meets the standards of immanency and transcendence, reveals himself, then we have certain, sure knowledge of who this God is (transcendence) and how his revelation applies to concrete situations (immanence).

God is the original and man is the derivative (Christian Theory of Knowledge, 16).  By analogical we don’t mean what Aquinas meant.   Our knowledge is a finite replica of God’s (Introduction Systematic Theology, 206).

Absolute Personality
Non-Christian systems die on the altar of personality. Either they posit personal, but finite gods (Greek pantheon) or impersonal, infinite gods (Eastern religions). Only Christian theism posits a personal, absolute God. They do so because of the Trinity. To quote CVT, “the members of the trinity are exhaustively representational of one another” (qtd. Frame, 59). To end this section with a quote and call to action from Frame, “Impersonal facts and laws cannot be ultimate, precisely because they are not personal. They cannot account for rationality, for moral value, for the causal order of the universe, or for the universal applicability of logic” (60).

The Trinity
Ah, this is where the heresy charges come in! And given the renewed interest in Trinitarianism, this section can be very useful. Van Til begins by stating and affirming what the Church has taught on the Trinity. His position can be summarized in the following moves: Trinitarianism denies correlativism, the belief that God and creation are dependent on one another. God is three persons and one Person. Watch closely. He calls the whole Godhead “one person.” He is not saying that God is one in essence and three in essence. The main question is “the one being personal or impersonal?” (67). Van Til is calling the whole Godhood one “person” in order to avoid making the essence of God to be merely an abstraction. Frame argues, “If the three persons (individually and collectively) exhaust the divine essence (are “coterminous” with it), then the divine essence itself must be personal” (68). And if God is an absolute person (he is), and he is one (he is), then there must be a sense in which he is a person. Granting the Augustinian circumincessio, every act of God is a personal act involving all three persons acting in unity (68).

The Problem of the One and the Many
I think Rushdoony was more excited about this than Van Til (see Van Til’s response to Rush in Jerusalem and Athens). How do we find unity in the midst of plurality? Unbelief cannot answer this question. It always tends toward one or the other extreme. If abstract being is ultimate, then there are no particulars. If abstract particular is ultimate, then there is no truth. The Trinity is both personal one and many.

If all of reality is one, then how can we make distinctions?  If all of reality is just sense data, how can we unify them in our consciousness? We are faced with the danger of either pure abstraction or pure matter.  Frame has a very good discussion of this on p.73.

Revelation
Contrary to popular opinion, Van Til does hold to general revelation. Given his view of God’s sovereignty, all things reveal God’s decree. (Man is receptively reconstructive of God’s revelation. It is his job to re-interpret previously God-interpreted facts.) In short, Van Til holds to the typical Kuyperian view of revelation. From this Van Til posits a three-fold division in God’s revelation: a revelation from God, from nature, and from self (120). This is perspectival, btw. As to Scripture, it is self-attesting and bears God’s full authority. As such, it must be inerrant.

Evidence
CVT does not disparage the use of evidence, many critics to the contrary. Rather, he denies the use of “brute facts.” Given the Trinity, all facts and laws are correlative. Brute facts are “uninterpreted facts” and therefore meaningless, the constituents of a universe of pure chance. This means we cannot separate facts from meaning. We cannot challenge the unbeliever on a particular fact if we do not challenge his philosophy of fact. Again, see RJ Rushdoony on facts and evidence (JBA).

Common Grace

Van Til’s contribution to this debate is that he puts common grace on a timeline, emphasizing “earlier” and “later” (CGG, 72).

The Crack of Doom

Van Til makes the interesting point that common grace decreases as time goes on. “Differentiation sets in” (83). Frame questions this as he does not see the world necessarily getting more and more wicked.  Frame is partially correct but he resists the inference Gary North will draw.

Frame thinks North reads too much into the word “Favor,” which is ambiguous in English.  Perhaps he does, but North’s argument is still the same:  we should speak of common gifts instead of common grace. God gave the Caananites an extra 40 years.  This was a gift.  Was it “favor?”  No, he ethnically cleansed them 40 years later.

And Van Til, pace Frame, is very clear on the timeline.  As history progresses God will withdraw his common grace from the wicked, and show his love towards his children by watching the wicked wipe them out (or so reads Van Til’s timeline).  Frame avoids the postmillennial challenge:  if the unbeliever is epistemologically self-conscious, he can’t function logically, so how can he have dominion?

Conclusion

There are also chapters dealing with Barth, Dooyeweerd, and the theonomists.  They are well worth your time but beyond the scope of this review.